By Madeline Alden
On a rainy Wednesday, the atmosphere inside Lenny’s Restaurant was anything but dreary. The mellow sound of “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson could be heard in the background sung by a local artist, Don Fillian, who provided the entertainment for the crowd of 50 or so people. The evening's festivities were part of a fundraiser for the Branford Education Foundation, which is trying to help support public education in the town.
The BEF was founded in 2004 and has since raised more than $87,000 for educational programs that couldn’t be funded by the Board of Education, according to BEF organizers. The BEF's latest fundraiser was the silent auction at Lenny's on April 22 which raised approximately $8,000. Programs such as the Solar Energy Program and Earth Week/Arbor Day Initiative Projects have been awarded $2,500 and $1,800 to Branford High School in 2009. All program proposals have been reviewed by a board of teachers and about 95% of the cases proposed go through and are funded by BEF. BEF also awarded $3,700 to Branford High School principal Lee Panagoulias and social studies teacher Joel Hinrichs for a trip to China as part of Shandong Principal and Teacher Shadow Program.
BEF was founded by Bob Babcock. He also founded the Cheshire Education Foundation in Cheshire, Connecticut. BEF is an organization that “raises private funding for public programs that funding wasn’t granted to by the board of education,” Bob Babcock explains, “I feel that the better a public system is in a community the better the community is as a whole and having a fund allows us to support public education.” There are about 70 EF’s in CT.
For the silent auction, many local restaurants and companies donated items to bid. These items included a bike from Zane’s, an Owenego club membership, spa and restaurant gift cards and much more. All proceeds profit BEF, which in turn profits Branford’s education. The sponsors of the event were happy to contribute to BEF; one of them was Guilford Savings Bank. “We always contribute scholarships to Branford and the surrounding area to give back to the community,” said Salvatore Mancuso, the Branford Branch Manager of Guilford Savings Bank.“I think that it is fabulous that we have BEF in the town; it is the people of the town who want to support us and they do,” says John Prins, a board member of BEF